No, really it is. You see, we had to sell our massive old house- the big six bed Victorian, where Being Human was filmed when a heart attack forced my husband to accept we weren’t going to foster anymore, and we weren’t moving to France either. Which had been our two year plan, to buy two houses, live in one, rent the other out once my writing had taken off and we could support ourselves between these two incomes.
So with those dreams in tatters round our ankles, and a mortgage we couldn’t afford anymore, we sold to an utterly delightful family and bought a sweet like red brick thirties semi came onto the market. We were the first and only people to view it, it was perfect with 3 double bedrooms, a kitchen that could take an island and dining table, and a lounge that was big enough for a T.V end, and a desk end, and sweeping sea views. The whole house was light and golden, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders as soon as we walked through the door. All it would need to be perfect was a bit of repainting in nautical colours.
Downsizing was hard, even though we’d included a lot of the furniture in the sale of the old house, we still had an awful lot of stuff to fit into little house. The immediate solution was to store stuff in the attic so we had some space to move and sort things out. We needed a larger attic hatch and the attic boarding to allow it to be used for storage. Which is when we discovered the asbestos. No I hadn’t bothered with a full survey- a surveyor won’t move furniture or carpet, what would have been the point of wasting £1,000+ that we didn’t have? So we couldn’t fit a large attic hatch ourselves. We needed specialists. Expensive specialists.
Which is when we found that the electrics in the bathroom weren’t earthed. What a wonderful combination, unearthed electrics and water, my favourite. Because of the asbestos the electrics needed to be replaced by the specialist team, and if the bathroom electrics were in that state I didn’t fancy taking a chance on the rest of the house! So we had to pay for a complete rewire. While everything was pulled apart for the electrics to be restored, it made sense to move the boiler out of my bedroom- it was VERY noisy- and into the utility area. A far more sensible place for a boiler surely? This meant rebuilding the rear wall of the utility space though, another expensive job, and while all the other turmoil went on, we may as well move the radiators in each room to where we actually wanted them, and reskim the walls so we could paint them afterwards and finally have our perfect little home.
Everything took much longer than we expected, and we were without heating until December. The house is lovely and warm- it’s well insulated and has its cavity walls filled (See why we thought it was a safe buy?), but not having the heating on made it damp. First I got the snuffles, then my hubby got a bad case of man flu. Only it wasn’t man flu, it was pneumonia. Not on house, not on.
We had a little break then, we were out of money and patience for sharing our house with builders. Come May though, we couldn’t bear being carpetless with hacked up walls any longer. We found a new team of builders and ran up a horrible debt to get the bulk of the house and gardens finished. Two weeks they estimated to get the interior work done. Maximum. How our little house must have chuckled.
Hubby’s room went smoothly, (we have separate rooms because he’s a lark, and I’m an owl, and he snores like a steam train, also, I’m messy and he’s finicky. He has visiting rights.). With his room finished, I packed enough clothes for a week into a bag and decamped to the sofa, while all my belongings were crammed into the spare room, which will eventually become my writing room.
My room ceiling couldn’t just be skimmed though, it was sagging and needed to be pulled down and completely replaced. That was going to mean an extra couple of hundred pounds and an extra couple of nights on the sofa. Only the house had bigger plans than just a few extra nights poor sleep. Once the plaster was off the ceiling we discovered that the beams were far too thin and widely spaced. It was a miracle that the contents of the attic had not fallen through and landed on me.
This is when I started to suspect the house had it in for us. The beams were sagging so badly they’d dropped several inches and couldn’t be repaired, they had to be replaced. And the wood had to be specially ordered in. You don’t want to know how much extra that cost, and by the end of my third week of sleeping on the sofa I was seriously suffering from sleep deprivation. I was accepting night shifts at the hostel where I used to work the hope of better sleep, not just because I was so desperate for the extra money to cover our spiralling costs.
The day I moved back into my room was lovely. The colour I’d chosen is the softest grey, I can’t remember its real name, but I call it Wistful Sigh. The thick soft carpet is scrumptious under my toes, and the extra money we spent on the quality underlay was worth every penny. I don’t have curtains yet, just a blanket over the window, but you know, after the lounge, it really is luxury to have my own space and all my belongings in one place.
Phew, the end was finally in sight, they just needed to give the hall, stairs and landing a second coat of the glorious New England blue I’d chosen, while Hubby and I packed up the lounge so everything could be moved into the kitchen for a couple of days while the lounge ceiling was skimmed to get rid of the awful aertex, and it was painted a slightly greyer shade of blue than the hall. We wouldn’t have a lounge or kitchen for a few days, but that’s ok it wouldn’t take long. Can you hear the house laughing? I didn’t, I am an eternal optimist.
I did hear the worry in the builder’s voice though, as he called downstairs, he looked sad as he showed me the water running off the new electric socket box when he pulled it out of the wall. Ah, electricity and water, my favourite combination. Our new electrics, fitted less than six months had rusting metal boxes in an interior wall. We frantically looked for exterior causes. There weren’t any.
‘What’s under the laminate?’ the builder asked in a worried voice.
‘Oh, it’s concrete,’ I replied confidently. ‘I asked the seller when we viewed’.
I’d hoped there might still be the lovely original thirties parquet wooden floor to restore. The builder suggested I may have been lied to. He explained that houses from this era were sometimes built with floors tiled straight onto earth, which damp could then rise through. I didn’t need him to pull up the laminate, or show me the foil backed polystyrene to know what he’d find underneath. The only possible solution was to dig up the pantry, which was where the water seemed to be accessing the house, and lay a damp-proof course, and hope that resolved the problem. The original black and white tiles are a lovely find. It’s just a shame there’s a thick layer of black adhesive over them which is going to be a bugger to remove.
Well, there went the budget for the side garden. The one we wanted to slab for us, so we had a lovely space for barbeques and parties with our friends. All the things we’d planned to be doing now we weren’t tied down to fostering. And the couple of days we were spending without a lounge or kitchen was stretched by another five days. We were a little fraught, you know, just a smidge. Finally the pantry was finished, although it would take a month to dry, so nothing could go back into it, but that’s ok, the builder only had the lounge ceiling to skim, would only take a day or two.
Ah ha ha ha. I know! Hubby and I had a rare day off together when I heard that scared tone the builder had developed when he had to tell me there was a problem. The leak we’d discovered and fixed from the bathroom was only one of three, and they were long term problems. You know where this is going don’t you? The ceiling was completely rotten at one end, and needed replacing. We decided to bite the bullet and replace the whole thing, insulating for sound while he was at it. Hubby’s telly watching at half six in the morning would wake me now more. They also discovered that some genius had cut the beam the feet of the bath sat on down to just a couple of inches to fit in the bath waste. So the heaviest thing in the whole house was balancing on a flimsy bit of damp wood. Really house? Wasn’t that stooping a bit low? My marvellous builder saved the day though, strapping some steel strips either side to reinforce it, and fixing the other two leaks.
Which is when the house seemed to take against him instead, the one who was foiling all her fatal plans. First his wife had to be rushed into hospital with a suspected heart attack, which turned out to be fluid on the lung from here she was kicked in work. A scary experience that delayed work by another five days, but we weren’t complaining, we’d been there far too recently. Then, the day he was due back, his lovely two year old dog had to be put to sleep after having massive fits.
It was still essential that the rear garden was slabbed for the dogs. They’d turned the pretty lawned area at the back of the house into a dug up Somme within a matter of days of us moving in. The next day the scalpings and other such builderly things which had been ordered for the remaining garden works were dumped on the pavement at a completely random address, on a completely random day, so the poor man had to spend the hottest day of the year shovelling several tons of scalpings (gravel sort of stuff) into bags to be transported back to the depo.
Then the decorator went AWOL for a weekend. I’m a very sanguine person, Hubby is not so much. Since his heart attack my cheerful laughing man has become much more negative and short tempered. This was about the point he became really ratty. It was also the time the house seemed to decide we were here to stay, and give up fighting us. Not before she’d passed the baton onto the car though, so the gears all failed as he drove me to work. We had to manage without a car for a week. Hubby decided he wanted to sell that one after such a betrayal, so we bought a smaller car, with lower running costs, and somehow, she got passed the baton too! Battery faults meant we were another week without a car. During this time I badly damaged my back in work, and as that got better, developed a virus.
I think what I’m trying to say is, sorry I’m late with my blog posts and newsletter, and sorry I haven’t made better progress with Book 2 of The Darkly Vampire Trilogy, but there has been a series of unfortunate events! It’s been four whole days now since anything untoward has happened. They start the garden tomorrow.